BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Commission launched unprecedented disciplinary proceedings against Poland on Wednesday (Dec 20) over its highly controversial judicial reforms which Brussels says threaten the rule of law.
"It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to initiate Article 7.1. But the facts leave us with no choice," Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters in Brussels.
The commission, the EU's executive arm, is activating article seven of the bloc's treaty, a never-before-used disciplinary procedure that could ultimately lead to Poland losing its voting rights in the EU.
Mr Timmermans said that 13 laws adopted by Poland in the space of two years had created a situation where the government "can systematically politically interfere with the composition, powers, the administration and the functioning" of judicial authorities.
Poland's right-wing government began making changes to the judiciary after coming to power in late 2015 and says the reforms are needed to combat corruption and overhaul the judicial system still haunted by the communist era.
Mr Timmermans said Warsaw had ignored three recommendations by the commission, and Brussels had a duty to act - even if it would be presented by some as an attack on Poland.
"At the end of the day it is only the law that can protect us against naked political power. At the end of the day it is the law that keeps the European Union together," he said.